Approximately half of new mothers are concerned about their mental health and they are suffering in silence, according to research by the NCT. There are a range of symptoms and conditions that fall under perinatal mental illness, including antenatal or postnatal depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder – and dads can be affected too. If left untreated it can have a devastating effect on the whole family.
We’ve selected a few of the top tips we’ve come across from working with new parents every day, and also through our partnership with the NCT as sponsors for The Big Push.
Talk About Your Feelings
Whatever you’re going through, it’s important to talk. By vocalising your problems, you will see your way forward more clearly. What’s more, whoever you speak to may offer you important advice, or make you see everything in a different way. Who you talk to doesn’t really matter, all that matters is that you trust them and you can confide in them. Counselors and doctors are ideal if you need medical or psychological support. But if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, there are plenty of local support groups who specialise in helping women through postnatal depression. If you decide that support groups aren’t for you, opening up to a friend or family member can be just as helpful. If you know any other mums, they’ll be able to offer you sound advice, too. Whatever you’re going through, it’s likely that they’ve been through something similar, so don’t be afraid to open up. Most women who go through postnatal depression feel an overwhelming sense of isolation. This means that, unfortunately, many don’t speak out about their feelings and suffer in silence. It is important to override this feeling of loneliness as much as possible, and find people who are able to support you.
Make Time for You
When you become a parent, it can feel like your only purpose in the world is to look after your child, and that you have lost the life you had before you had your baby. But it’s important to remember that you’re an individual as well as a parent, and that you can still make time for yourself. You might feel rushed off your feet, but by making time for friends and family, you can enjoy the company of your loved ones, helping you to feel less isolated. Finding time to be by yourself can be helpful, too. If you can organise a sitter even for just an hour or two, this gives you the chance to relax and unwind with your favourite home comforts, whether that means watching a funny TV show or delving into a new book. Having time out will help you to feel rested. Taking up a hobby or setting yourself a manageable goal, like learning a new skill, anything from cross stitch to playing an instrument, will also help you to feel better. By achieving something like this that’s separate to your family life, you will feel more positive and empowered.
It’s no secret that, if you eat well, you will feel well. By consuming healthy, natural fats and protein based meals, you will start to see a difference in your mood. By eating dishes that contain high-energy protein, like oily fish and filling vegetables (for example avocado), you will feel more energised. Everyone should treat themselves, but there are certain things you should avoid where possible. Many new mums avoid alcohol if they breastfeed, but it’s advisable to avoid drinking if you’re feeling vulnerable after having a baby, anyway. Alcohol is essentially a depressant, so it is likely to make you feel much worse overall if you drink regularly.
It might sound simple, but if you exercise regularly, you will start to feel healthier, both mentally and physically. In their study, Be Active and Become Happy, researchers Kanning and Schlicht found that participants felt content, awake, and calm after periods of simple exercise. On the other hand, participants who did not exercise had a low mood. What’s more, by taking up regular exercise, you will be able to socialise more. Plenty of new mums take up new sports and exercise classes in their local areas, so you won’t be alone if you take up something new. A popular choice among new mums is to take their little ones to local swimming classes. Here, your baby will be able to flex their muscles, and you will also get a gentle work out. By supporting your baby in the water taking part in gentle, water-based exercises, your bond with your baby will grow and you’ll get to keep fit, too.
Get the Help You Need
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you talk to someone about what you’re going through and introduce approaches into your daily life that will make you to feel positive. From strengthening the bond between you and your baby, to offering you both some gentle exercise, there are so many benefits swimming lessons can offer you. More than anything, if you are going through postnatal depression, remember that you’re not alone. Many women experience postpartum mood disorders, so make sure you speak out and get the support you deserve.
About Puddle Ducks
Puddle Ducks teach independent swimming from birth, strengthening
bonds between parents and children across the UK.